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Rushlow v. Warden

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

April 4, 2019

NICHOLAS RUSHLOW, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Nicholas Rushlow, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging a disciplinary hearing (ISP 18-03-417) where a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) found him guilty of aiding and abetting in the assault of another offender in violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policies A-102 and A-111 on April 12, 2018. ECF 1 at 1. As a result, he was sanctioned with the loss of 60 days earned credit time and a one-step demotion in credit class. Id. The Warden has filed the administrative record and Rushlow has filed a traverse. Thus this case is fully briefed.

         The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees prisoners certain procedural due process rights in prison disciplinary hearings: (1) advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision-maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense, when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by the fact-finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be “some evidence” in the record to support the guilty finding. Superintendent, Mass. Corr Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985).

         In the context of a prison disciplinary hearing, “the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56. “In reviewing a decision for some evidence, courts are not required to conduct an examination of the entire record, independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary board's decision to revoke good time credits has some factual basis.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted).

[T]he findings of a prison disciplinary board [need only] have the support of some evidence in the record. This is a lenient standard, requiring no more than a modicum of evidence. Even meager proof will suffice, so long as the record is not so devoid of evidence that the findings of the disciplinary board were without support or otherwise arbitrary. Although some evidence is not much, it still must point to the accused's guilt. It is not our province to assess the comparative weight of the evidence underlying the disciplinary board's decision.

Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649, 652 (7th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks, citations, parenthesis, and ellipsis omitted).

         Here, Rushlow was found guilty of violating IDOC offenses A-102 and A-111 because he aided and abetted in the assault of another offender. Specifically, IDOC offense A-102 prohibits inmates from “[k]nowingly or intentionally touching another person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner; or in a rude, insolent, or angry manner placing any bodily fluid or bodily waste on another person.” Indiana Department of Correction, Adult Disciplinary Process: Appendix I. https://www.in.gov/idoc/files/ 02-04-101%20Appendix%20I%206-4-2018.pdf. IDOC offense A-111 prohibits inmates from “[a]ttempting by one's self or with another person or conspiring or aiding and abetting with another person to commit any Class A offense.” See Appendix I, supra.

         Investigator Burke wrote a conduct report charging Rushlow as follows:

On March 21, 2018 at approximately 1:08pm, Offender Rushlow, Nicholas DOC #968135, can be seen aiding and abetting the assault against another offender in ACH. Offender Rushlow was with the suspect before and during the time of the incident.

ECF 12-1 at 1. He also prepared a report of investigation, which states:

On March 21, 2018, Offender Williamson, Jerry DOC #250668 approached the Officer's Station in ACH with multiple stab wounds. The cameras were reviewed which showed Offenders Worden, Michael DOC #132350 and Rushlow, Nicholas DOC #968135 go into Offender Williamson's cell. Offender Rushlow came out of the cell, followed by Offenders Worden and Williamson. Offenders Worden and Williamson began fighting on the flag. During an interview with Offender Worden, he admitted to punching Offender Williamson.

ECF 12-1 at 2.

         On March 27, 2018, Rushlow was notified of the charge when he was served with the conduct and screening reports. ECF 12-1 at 1, ECF 12-2 at 1. During his screening, he requested a “statement from the person that was written in the conduct report.” ECF 12-2 at 1. He also asked to view the video footage of the incident asserting the footage would show him simply “walking away” from the assault instead of participating in it. Id.

         On April 9, 2018, the hearing officer reviewed the video footage and ...


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